Northeast Los Angeles Real Estate News & Market Trends

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Nov. 1, 2019

6 Things You Must Know Before You Buy

Glendale CA real estate agent for buyer

Mortgage Regulations Have Changed ...

Mortgage regulations have changed significantly over the last few years, making your options wider than ever. Subtle changes in the way you approach mortgage shopping, and even small differences in the way you structure your mortgage, can cost or save you literally thousands of dollars and years of expense.

Get the Right Information

Whether you are about to buy your first home, or are planning to make a move to your next home, it is critical that you inform yourself about the factors involved.

Industry research has revealed that there are 6 common mistakes that most homebuyers make in mortgage shopping that can have a significant impact on the outcome of this critical negotiation.  If handled correctly, these issues could result in a mortgage that will cost you less over a shorter period of time.

6 Things You Must Know Before Obtaining a Mortgage

Before you commit your hard earned dollars to monthly mortgage payments, consider these 6 issues. Effective consideration of these important areas can make your payments work much harder for you.

  1. You can, and should, get pre-approved for a mortgage before you go looking for a home.
    Pre-approval is easy, and can give you complete peace-of-mind when shopping for your home. Your local lending institution can provide you with written pre-approval for you at no cost and no obligation, and it can all be done quite easily over-the-phone. More than just a verbal approval from your lending institution, a written pre-approval is as good as money in the bank.  It entails a completed credit application, and a certificate which guarantees you a mortgage to the specified level when you find the home you’re look-ing for.
  2. Know what monthly dollar amount you feel comfortable committing to.
    When you discuss mortgage pre-approval with your lending institution, find out what level you qualify for, but also pre-assess for yourself what monthly dollar amount you feel comfortable committing to. Your situation may give you a pre-approval amount that is higher (or lower) than the amount of money you would want to pay out each month.  By working back and forth with your lending institution to determine what this monthly amount is, and what value of home this translates into at today’s rates, you won’t waste time looking at homes that are not in your price range.
  3. You should be thinking about your long term goals, and expected situation, to determine the type of mortgage that will best suit your needs.
    There are a number of questions you should be asking yourself before you commit to a certain type of mortgage.  How long do you think you will own this home?  What direction are interest rates going in, and how quickly?  Is your income expected to change (up or down) in the near term, impacting how much money you can afford to pay to your mortgage? The answers to these and other questions will help you determine the most appropriate mortgage you should be seeking.
  4. Make sure you understand what prepayment privileges and payment frequency options are available to you.
    More frequent payments (for example weekly or biweekly) can literally shave years off your mortgage.  Simply by structuring your payments so that they come out more frequently, will significantly lessen the amount of interest that you will be charged over the term. For the same reason, authorized pre-payment of a certain percentage of your mort-gage, or an increase in the amount you pay monthly, will have a major impact on the number of years you will have to pay and could shorten your payment term considerably. These two payment options can cut years off your mortgage, and save you thousands of dollars in interest.  However, not every mortgage has these prepayment privileges built in, so make sure you ask the proper questions.
  5. Ask if your mortgage is both portable and/or assumable.
    A portable mortgage, where available, is one that you can carry with you when you buy your next home and avoid paying any discharge penalties. This means that you will not have to go through the entire mortgage process again unless you are making a move up to a much more expensive home. An assumable mortgage is one that the buyer for your home can take over when you move to your next home.  This can be a very powerful tool at the negotiating table making it much easier and more desirable for a buyer to buy your home, and again saves you any discharge penalties.
  6. You should seriously consider dealing with a Mortgage Expert.
    Consider dealing only with a professional who specializes in mortgages. Enlisting their services can make a significant difference in the cost and effectiveness of the mortgage you obtain. For example they can make the process faster thereby avoiding costly delays. Typically there is no cost or obligation to enquire.

Contact Us. Let's get you started of your buying journey.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
Oct. 8, 2019

3 Minor Upgrades That Boost Value Instantly

3 Minor Upgrades That Boost Value Instantly

Homeowners can do plenty to spruce up their home and make it more enticing for buyers. But when they're narrowing their list, what are a few quick fixes that can have a big impact? Besides a fresh coat of paint, here are some additional ideas:

Update the door.

A new front door can be a cost-effective update that can make a big difference, real estate pros say. “Solid wood doors are always a classic style for homes not to go out of style anytime soon,” Redfin notes on its blog. “They’re solid and typically last much longer than alternative materials like fiberglass. Additionally, front doors with inlaid glass can also give your entryway more natural light for the interior of your home.”

Modernize the lighting.

First, make sure all interior lights have the same color temperature so it’s consistent throughout the home. “Updating your light fixtures, ceiling fans, and even your hardware on doors and cabinets is an easy and cost-effective way of increasing the perceived value of your home,” Redfin notes. For example, replace dated brass light fixtures to more contemporary ones, like lights with a black finish. Find fixtures that will add more light and brighten your home too.

Upgrade your mailbox.

It may sound trivial, but the look of the mailbox is all part of helping to build a strong first impression from the curb. “It’s also the easiest home improvement you can do,” Redfin notes at its blog. “It could just be a new mailbox that replaces the old, weathered one you’ve had for years. … Or you could upgrade to a ‘next generation’ mailbox that allows USPS to deliver large packages to your mailbox instead of your front door.”

 

Source: Realtor Magazine / REDFIN
Sept. 9, 2019

The 9 Step System to Get Your Home Sold Fast and For Top Dollar

The 9 Step System to Get Your Home Sold Fast and For Top Dollar

The Real Estate Market Has Changed...

Remember not so long ago, when you could make your fortune in real estate.  It was nothing then to buy a home, wait a short while, and then sell it at a tidy profit.

And then do it all over again.

Well, as you probably know, times have changed.  As good as the market is right now, home prices are still  below what they were at their peak. Buyers are far more discriminating, and a large percentage of the homes listed for sale never sell. It’s more critical than ever to learn what you need to know to avoid costly seller mistakes in order to sell your home fast and for the most amount of money.

The 7 Deadly Mistakes Most Home sellers Make

  1. Failing to analyze why they are selling.
  2. Not preparing their home for the buyer’s eye.
  3. Pricing their homes incorrectly.
  4. Selling too hard during showings.
  5. Signing a long-term listing agreement without a written performance guarantee.
  6. Making it difficult for buyers to get information on their homes.
  7. Failing to obtain a pre-approved mortgage for one’s next home.

“Buyers are far more discriminating, and a large percentage of the homes listed for sale don’t sell the first time.  It’s more critical than ever to learn what you need to know to avoid costly seller mistakes in order to sell your home fast and for the most amount of money.”

The 9 Step System to Get Your Home Sold Fast and For Top Dollar

Selling your home is one of the most important steps in your life. This 9 step system will give you the tools you need to maximize your profits, maintain control, and reduce the stress that comes with the home-selling process:

  1. Know why you’re selling, and keep it to yourself.
    The reasons behind your decision to sell affect everything from setting a price to deciding how much time and money to invest in getting your home ready for sale.  What’s more important to you:  the money you walk away with, the length of time your property is on the market or both?Different goals will dictate different strategies. 

    However, don’t reveal your motivation to anyone else or they may use it against you at the negotiating table.  When asked, simply say that your housing needs have changed.
  2. Do your homework before setting a price.
    Settling on an offering price shouldn’t be done lightly.  Once you’ve set your price, you’ve told buyers the absolute maximum they have to pay for your home, but pricing too high is as dangerous as pricing too low. Remember that the average buyer is looking at 15-20 homes at the same time they are considering yours. This means that they have a basis of comparison, and if your home doesn’t compare favorably with others in the price range you’ve set, you won’t be taken seriously by prospects or agents.  As a result, your home will sit on the market for a long time and, knowing this, new buyers on the market will think there must be something wrong with your home.
  3. More homework.
    (In fact, your agent should do this for you).  Find out what homes in your own and similar neighborhoods have sold for in the past 6-12 months, and research what current homes are listed for.  That’s certainly how prospective buyers will assess the worth of your home.
  4. Find a good real estate agent to represent your needs.
    Nearly three-quarters of homeowners claim that they wouldn’t use the same realtor who sold their last home. Dissatisfaction boils down to poor communication which results in not enough feedback, lower pricing and strained relations.
  5. Maximize your home’s sales potential.
    Each year, corporate North America spends billions on product and packaging design. Appearance is critical, and it would be foolish to ignore this when selling your home.

    You may not be able to change your home’s location or floor plan, but you can do a lot to improve its appearance.  The look and feel of your home generates a greater emotional response than any other factor. Before showings clean like you’ve never cleaned before. Pick up, straighten, unclutter, scrub, scour and dust. Fix everything, no matter how insignificant it may appear.  Present your home to get a “WOW” response from prospective buyers.

    Allow the buyers to imagine themselves living in your home The decision to buy a home is based on emotion, not logic.  Prospective buyers want to try on your home just like they would a new suit of clothes.  If you follow them around pointing out improvements or if your decor is so different that it’s difficult for a buyer to strip it away in his or her mind, you make it difficult for them to feel comfortable enough to imagine themselves an owner.
  6. Make it easy for prospects to get information on your home.
    You may be surprised to know that some marketing tools that most agents use to sell homes (eg. traditional open houses) are actually not very effective. In fact only 1% of homes are sold at an open house.

    Furthermore, the prospects calling for information on your home value their time as much as you do.  The last thing they want to be subjected to is either a game of telephone tag with an agent, or an unwanted sales pitch.  Make sure the ads your agent places for your home are attached to a 24 hour prerecorded hotline with a specific ID# for your home which gives buyers access to detailed information about your property day or night, 7 days a week, without having to talk to anyone.  It’s been proven that 3 times as many buyers call for information on your home under this system. And remember, the more buyers you have competing for your home the better, because it sets up an auction-like atmosphere that puts you in the driver’s seat.
  7. Know your buyer.
    In the negotiation process, your objective is to control the pace and set the duration.  What is your buyer’s motivation? Does s/he need to move quickly? Does s/he have enough money to pay you your asking price? Knowing this information gives you the upper hand in the negotiation because you know how far you can push to get what you want.
  8. Make sure the contract is complete.
    For your part as a seller, make sure you dis-close everything.  Smart sellers proactively go above and beyond legal requirements to disclose all known defects to their buyers in writing.  If the buyer knows about a problem, s/he can’t come back with a lawsuit later on.

    Make sure all terms, costs and responsibilities are spelled out in the contract of sale, and resist the temptation to diverge from the con-tract.  For example, if the buyer requests a move-in prior to closing, just say no.  Now is not the time to take any chances of the deal falling through.
  9. Don’t move out before you sell.
    Studies have shown that it is more difficult to sell a home that is vacant because it looks for-lorn, forgotten, simply not appealing.  It could even cost you thousands.  If you move, you’re also telling buyers that you have a new home and are probably highly motivated to sell fast. This, of course, will give them the advantage at the negotiating table.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
Aug. 29, 2019

How to Stop Paying Rent and Own Your Own Home

How to Stop Paying Rent and Own Your Own Home

Don’t Pay Another Cent in Rent To Your Landlord...

It’s a dream we all have - to own our own home and stop paying rent.  But if you’re like most renters, you feel trapped within the walls of a house or apartment that doesn’t feel like yours.  How could it when you’re not even permitted to bang in a nail or two without a hassle.  You feel like you’re stuck in the renter’s rut with no way of rising up out of it and own-ing your own home.

Don’t Feel Trapped Anymore

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been renting, or how insurmountable your financial situation may seem. The truth is, there are some little known facts that can help you get over the hump, and transfer your status from renter to homeowner.  With this information, you will begin to see how you really can:

  • save for a downpayment
  • stop lining your landlord’s pockets, and
  • stop wasting thousands of dollars on rent.

“If you’re like most renters, you feel trapped within the walls of a house or apartment that doesn’t feel like yours .”

6 Little Known Facts That Can Help You Buy Your First Home

The problem that most renters face isn’t your ability to meet a monthly payment. Goodness knows that you must meet this monthly obligation every 30 days already. The problem is accumulating enough capital to make a downpayment on something more permanent.

But saving for this lump sum doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think.  Consider the following 6 important points:

  1. You can buy a home with much less down than you think.
    There are some local or federal government programs (such as 1st time buyer programs) to help people get into the housing market. You can qualify as a first time buyer even if your spouse has owned a home before as long as your name was not registered. Ensure your real estate agent is informed and knowledgeable in this important area and can offer programs to help you with your options.
  2. You may be able to get your lender to help you with your down payment and closing costs.
    Even if you do not have enough cash for a down-payment, if you are debt-free, and own an asset free and clear (such as a car for example), your lending institution may be able to lend you the down-payment for your home by securing it against this asset.
  3. You may be able to find a seller to help you buy and finance your home.
    Some sellers may be willing to hold a second mortgage for you as a “seller take-back”.  In this case, the seller becomes your lending institution. Instead of paying this seller a lump-sum full amount for his or her home, you would pay monthly mortgage installments.
  4. You may be able to create a cash down payment without actually going into debt.
    By borrowing money for certain investments to a specified level, you may be able to generate a significant tax refund for yourself that you can use as a down-payment.  While the money borrowed for these investments is technically a loan, the monthly amount paid can be small, and the money invested in both home and investment will be yours in the end.
  5. You can buy a home even if you have problems with your credit rating.
    If you can come up with more than the minimum down-payment, or can secure the loan with other equity, many lend-ing institutions will consider you for a mortgage.  Alternatively, a seller take-back mortgage could also help you in this situation.
  6. You can, and should, get pre-approved for a home loan before you go looking for a home.
    Pre-approval is easy, and can give you complete peace-of-mind when shop-ping for your home. Mortgage experts can obtain written pre-approval for you at no cost and no obligation, and it can all be done quite easily over-the-phone. More than just a verbal approval from your lending institution, a written pre-approval is as good as money in the bank.  It entails a completed credit application, and a certificate which guarantees you a mortgage to the specified level when you find the home you’re looking for.

    Consider dealing only with a professional who specializes in mortgages. Enlisting their services can make the difference between obtaining a mort-gage, and being stuck in the renter’s rut forever. Typically there is no cost or obligation to enquire.

There are many important issues you should be aware of that affect you as a renter.  Why on earth would you continue to lose thousands by throwing it away on rent when with your agent you could take a few minutes to discuss your specific needs so that you can stop renting and start owning.

This conversation costs you nothing. And, of course, you shouldn’t have to feel obligated to buy a home at the time you review this.  But by taking the time to explore your options, and learn about the ways you can afford to buy a home, think how prepared and relaxed you’ll be when you are ready to make this important step.

Contact Us. We can help make it happen!

Posted in Real Estate Advice
Aug. 14, 2019

HUD to Announce Long-Awaited FHA Condo Rules

 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to release updated guidance tomorrow on FHA-insured condominium financing. The new rules should benefit more buyers by allowing them to obtain low down-payment mortgages on affordable housing options.

 

Specifically, the new rules will:

  • Extend FHA certifications on condo developments from two years to three years, reducing the compliance burden on condo boards.

  • Allow for single-unit mortgage approvals—often known as spot approvals—which will enable FHA insurance of individual condo units, even if the property does not have FHA approval.

  • Secure additional flexibility in the ratio of investors to owner-occupants allowed for FHA financing in a condo building.

The full guidance will go into effect in mid-October, 60 days from publication.

 

“Condominiums are often the most affordable option for first time home buyers, small families, and those in urban areas,” said NAR President John Smaby, in a statement issued to the media Wednesday morning. “We are thrilled that (HUD) Secretary (Ben) Carson has taken this much-needed step to put the American dream within reach for thousands of additional families.”

 

Since 2008, NAR has championed policy changes in condo lending. NAR has sought rules that would allow the owner-occupancy level to be determined on a case-by-case basis and that would extend the approval period for project certification to five years.

 

NAR’s existing-home sales report for June showed condominium and co-op sales at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 580,000 units, a decline of 3.3% from May and 6.5% from June 2018. With more than 8.7 million condo units nationwide, only 17,792 FHA condo loans have been originated in the past year.

 

“This ruling, which culminates years of collaboration between HUD and NAR, will help reverse recent declines in condo sales and ensure the FHA is fulfilling its primary mission to the American people,” Smaby said.

 

The full rule for single-family condo financing is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Aug. 15, 2019, and available online at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/08/15/2019-17213/project-approval-for-single-family-condominiums

 

Source: NAR
Posted in Market Updates
July 1, 2019

Smarter Climate For Every Room In The House

Smarter Climate For Every Room In The House

Home automation is increasingly common these days as the number of consumer-focused smart devices continues to increase. Though automation covers everything from light controls and security systems to water leak monitors and door locks, one of the most common automation devices is the smart thermostat. These thermostats offer improved climate control and energy savings through programmable adjustments for a range of different scenarios.

There is one issue with the early smart thermostats that were introduced, however: most of them only offered a single point of climate control, not taking into account several common heating and cooling scenarios that require a bit more nuanced control. Fortunately, there are other thermostat systems now available that provide smarter climate control options.

Why a Multi-Room Approach is Important

There are a number of reasons why having a single point of temperature control isn’t always ideal. In some cases, rooms that are farther away from your unit may not get the same degree of air flow,

especially in older systems; if everything is controlled by a single thermostat located near the air intake then the rooms with lower air flow won’t get the air that they need to keep pace with the rest of the house. Similar problems can occur if you have a split system or zoned heating and cooling. It may be a cool 68 in your living room, but rooms that are served by other system components could be staying in the 70s or higher.

You Need a Multi-Room Thermostat

Regardless of the reason, if your thermostat isn’t able to consistently heat or cool your entire home then it’s not going to be nearly as efficient as you’d like. That’s where a multi-room thermostat system comes in handy. These thermostats have additional sensors that you can mount in other rooms around the house. These sensors take additional temperature readings and broadcast the data back to the thermostat. The thermostat takes this additional data and adjusts the way it heats and cools your home with a focus on maintaining the entire home’s temperature instead of just the room where the thermostat’s located.

Because the thermostat has information from all over your house, the amount of warm or cool air circulated into each room is adjusted based on the home’s actual needs. This gives a greater amount of control over the internal temperature of the house, preventing warm and cool spots. It also ensures that adjustments made when you’re not in certain rooms or when you leave the house are optimized to save you the most money on your heating and cooling costs.

Taking Control of your Home Climate

There are a number of models of multi-room thermostats that you can choose from. The initial installation shouldn’t be any more complicated than any other thermostat replacement, as the majority of multi-room units use wireless technology to communicate with the central thermostat. Since you don’t have to directly wire the satellite sensors you have a lot of freedom in where you place them without having to drill holes and run wires through your walls.

Once the thermostat is installed and all the sensors are in place, all that’s left is to sync the sensors with the central thermostat. How you do this may differ depending on the make and model of thermostat you choose, but each model should have detailed instructions on how to connect the units together. Once everything’s connected, all that’s left is to sit back and enjoy the controlled climate.

Posted in Home Improvement
June 10, 2019

Buying a Short Sale Home? Keep This in Mind

Buying a Short Sale Home

One of the greatest myths in the world of real estate is that buying a home that’s in a pre-foreclosure state, or one that has already been foreclosed upon, will get you the very best deal possible. This is inaccurate for a number of reasons, though if you know what you’re looking at you can sometimes snag a bargain. There are a few things you need to know before making that leap the first time.

What is a Short Sale?

Short sales happen because a homeowner is in big trouble financially and needs to unload their house. They may be in a negative equity position (underwater) or simply lack the equity to sell their home. There was a time when homeowners had to miss a few payments before lenders would consider a short sale, but today there are conditions, like a sudden loss of income, that can make a short sale possible faster.

Short sales save the homeowner from a long and potentially credit damaging foreclosure. They save the bank from having to get lawyers involved to collect the home that’s collateral for the mortgage that’s in default. They don’t do anything for a buyer by design (that’s not to say that you can’t benefit from them, they just didn’t really consider buyers when creating this out for homeowners in trouble).

Buying a Short Sale Home: The Basics

To successfully navigate a short sale, you’re going to need a few things:

  1. An experienced real estate agent. Writing a contract for a short sale is not like writing a contract for a standard home. There are usually a variety of clauses that must be included, as well as knowledge of what will and won’t be accepted in said contract to consider. Your interests have to be protected, which can really bloat a standard purchase agreement with a lot of extra verbiage.
  2. A really good home inspector. When people ask their banks for permission to sell short, they’re not doing it because they’ve been spending all their extra money fixing up the place. Often, these homes are in some amount of disrepair due to neglect. When finances are tight enough to get a short sale approved, you can bet home improvements are far from the current owner’s mind.
  3. Patience. It can take a very long time to get a short sale approved. If you’re looking to buy one as an investment, that wait might not matter, but if you want a place to call home, it’s going to be frustratingly long. This is because not only does the homeowner approve the contract, the bank has to, as well. If there are two or more banks involved, so much more the trouble. Buckle in, because it can take six weeks – six months — to close.
  4. Liquid or liquidatable assets. Depending on the state of the home, you will likely have to put some money into it right away. A leaky roof and HVAC with issues aren’t cheap to fix.

It is highly recommended that you use a real estate agent to purchase a short sale. This point cannot be stressed enough. Short sales are not always deals, as stated above, because banks know what their property is worth — they’re not going to let you steal that house for a song. The banks involved are also unlikely to make repairs or give you any sort of concessions.

How Can Banks Afford to Do This?

The next time someone tells you that mortgage insurance is a waste and does nothing for anyone but the bank, remind them that MI is what makes short sales possible and often prevent long-term credit damage during a foreclosure. When a home qualifies to be a short sale, the bank is using proceeds from a claim against the mortgage insurance to make up the difference between what the sellers owe and what a buyer is giving.

MI can help prevent something known as a “bleeding foreclosure.” This is a foreclosure (or short sale) that has sold, but has a balance remaining that cannot be forgiven. Not all homes sold short will “bleed,” but it’s a potential in many states, especially if you’re not carrying MI on your mortgage. So, rather than pay extra every month for MI, you’ll be paying monthly for the outstanding balance on a house you no longer own.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
May 31, 2019

FSBO? Are You REALLY Ready to Sell Your Home Yourself?

Everybody likes the idea of a little DIY. Whether that means unclogging your own sink drain or putting in a few shelves in your pantry, there’s a lot of satisfaction that goes along with doing it yourself. Maybe this is why homeowners often seriously consider selling their homes on their own. Although going FSBO has the potential to save a few bucks, there’s a lot to know before jumping in.

What is a FSBO?

In real estate agent speak, “Fiz-Bows” are homes that are being sold and marketed by their owners; it’s short for For Sale By Owner. These sellers may negotiate with Buyer’s Agents to sell their house, but more often negotiate with the buyer directly. This buyer is either someone that the seller knows or it’s a complete stranger who called off of some kind of advertising for the home in question.

As you might imagine, this situation is just peachy until it’s not.

A Few Points to Ponder Before Going FSBO

The decision to sell your home yourself is not one that you should make lightly. There are a lot of things that must be done in order to execute a real estate contract and even seasoned real estate agents sometimes make serious mistakes. So, before you take the leap, keep these items in mind (just for starters):

Real estate agents carry errors and omissions insurance for a reason. There is no perfect contract and the more complicated they get, the higher the risk of something being accidentally recorded incorrectly. When that mistake is a high dollar issue, E&O kicks in to help resolve it. Generally speaking, if you’re selling your own home by yourself, your errors and omissions are on you.

Marketing matters. Even in a seller’s market, it’s fairly unlikely that plopping a “For Sale” sign on your lawn will attract the right buyers. Sure, you might get the neighbors popping by for a look, but they’re really just comparing their home to yours, they’re not generally serious buyers. This is going to be one of your biggest expenses, and marketing doesn’t come cheap.

You can’t just list your home on one site, you need to be putting your marketing where the people are — that means social media, local FSBO sites, the MLS (if you can access it where you live) and other outlets. This is where knowing your audience (your buyers) is really important. It’ll help you narrow your focus so you don’t spend as much on marketing as you could if you took a scattershot approach.

Contracts. You can’t sell a house with a handshake agreement. Well, you CAN in most states, but it’s not advised. Makes it real hard for the bank to finance and so forth. First thing’s first, do you have a contract you can use or a lawyer who will draft one for you? Any existing contracts should be checked over by a real estate attorney to ensure that you are protected.

Handling Offers. We all expect that contracts will come in at full price and also include nice notes about how our kitchen is amazing and the buyer can already smell the bubble bath in the master suite. That’s not always reality, though. What will you do when an offer comes in that’s insultingly low? The emotional weight can be massive. Most of the time, these things go off without a hitch, but there are some trouble contracts here and there. Are you confident enough to stake your equity on this gamble?

There’s nothing wrong with selling your house yourself, but if you choose to do this, you have to realize that it’s a huge commitment, as well as essentially being a second job. You have to be ready to show your house any time a potential buyer appears. You need to monitor the market so you can see when a price change is going to be necessary. Most importantly, you have to know how to respond when there’s a problem.

There Are No Perfect Houses

Anybody can sell a house that’s perfect. There’s no question about it. But in the real world, all homes have some kind of flaw. They’re structures made of thousands of different parts, after all. That one knotty stud with the bent nail under the drywall makes your house totally unique, even when compared with other homes that are the same floor plan.

The thing with all this uniqueness is that when a home inspector comes to inspect the home, they’re likely to find something wrong. As an owner, not having a lot of experience looking at inspection reports, you may think you’re being unfairly attacked or just feel generally insulted by the findings. After all, you wired up that outlet or plumbed that tub yourself.

If you can see your home the way your buyer does, you may have the stomach for selling it yourself. You have to be fair-minded, otherwise everything will blow up during the inspection period, if you make it that far.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
May 13, 2019

Garbage Disposal Care – Tips and Tricks

The modern world has so much to offer, from microwaves that can talk to your favorite smart home assistant to refrigerators that can remind you you’re out of milk. It’s amazing that something as innocuous as the garbage disposal remains relatively unchanged since its inception.

Time marches ever on, leaving the garbage disposal essentially untouched and easily ignored. This is why it’s so important to take proper care of the indispensable kitchen appliance that spends most of its time being wholly overlooked.

Garbage Disposals: Safety First

Before you begin to do anything with your garbage disposal, it’s important to understand how much potential for disaster it represents. You can grind bone, ice and other hard objects with this appliance, don’t think for a second that it will somehow spare your fingers and hands should you stick them inside.

Instead of risking digits, always use tongs or other long grabbing tools to retrieve things that have fallen inside. It doesn’t matter if it’s your wedding band or your keys, your garbage disposal can become a very seriously dangerous machine if you just go poking around in there.

Caring for Your Garbage Disposal

After that cautionary section, you may be wondering if your garbage disposal deserves to be maintained, especially if it’s just going to turn on you. Garbage disposal accidents are generally the result of a lack of care and improper use. So, go on, check out these tips for keeping it in prime shape:

  • A clean disposal is a happy disposal. When you’ve run your disposal, put a little dish soap inside and run the cold water. This will help keep smells down and also flush out any remaining food particles. Dropping citrus peels inside and grinding can also improve the situation.
  • Only put food in it. Only biodegradable items should go inside the disposal. Really, only food and not even every type of food. Lots of fats, for example, will clog the disposal faster than anything. Pasta, rice and other expanding foods can also be a problem for your disposal and plumbing.
  • Grind some hard things to keep the blade sharp. Bones and ice are hard enough to sharpen the blades, so don’t forget to toss a few in from time to time. Do not feed your disposal fibrous foods like celery, even though they are sometimes thought of as hard food items. The fibers can tangle around the moving parts and interfere with function.
  • Always use cold water. Flushing with hot water will melt fats inside, making it hard for your disposal to do much with them. Instead, always use cold water, which will cause those fats to solidify, so they can be broken up and flushed away. A little fat in the disposal is ok, don’t pour lots of fat into the plumbing, though, unless you want to call a plumber.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals. Although a degreaser can help your disposal stay clean and live longer, other harsh chemicals should be avoided. Drain cleaners in particular are very hard on disposals, They can and will damage your disposal. Best to use a plunger or hand crank the disposal to break up jams. If that won’t do it, call in a pro.
Posted in Home Improvement
May 9, 2019

Popcorn Ceilings: What They Are, How to Get Rid of Them & Are They a Health Hazard?

Popcorn is great for lots of stuff. You can enjoy a big bucket with family and friends while at the movies, string it on a thread to give Christmas that old-fashioned touch and even turn it into questionable “treats” for Halloween. One place that it’s a lot less welcome is on the ceiling.

Unfortunately, too many homes still have popcorn ceilings. They often create a lot more questions than they answer.

What Is a Popcorn Ceiling?

Back in the day, someone had a brilliant idea.

What would happen if there was a cheaper alternative to meticulously applied plaster ceiling coating and decoration for homes? This person asked themselves. Well, that would be just lovely!

And that person wasn’t wrong in concept. It was practice that turned out to really be the killer.

Popcorn ceilings, the solution to the problem, are still around, largely haunting homes built between the 1930s and 1990s. The ceiling texture that oddly resembles cottage cheese far more than it does popcorn, was popular for its ease of application and, at the time, low maintenance requirement.

Popcorn Ceilings: The Kicker

Even if you don’t object to the generally dated appearance of a popcorn ceiling (hey, maybe retro’s your thing, we’re not judging), think twice before going all in because that house you’re looking at has one that’s still intact.

So many popcorn ceilings contain some amount of friable asbestos that they are generally not a great idea to keep around. Even though popcorn ceiling mixtures containing asbestos were banned under the Clean Air Act in 1979, the remaining mixes that hadn’t been purchased were still allowed to be sold. In some areas, this means that new installations of potentially hazardous popcorn ceilings lingered well into the 1980s.

If the asbestos wasn’t enough, many popcorn ceilings have been painted since they were installed, or were installed using paint as part of the initial mix. Lead-based paint was the norm until it was banned in 1978. It’s kind of a double-whammy.

Friable Versus Non-Friable Asbestos

There are two kinds of asbestos: friable and non-friable. Friable asbestos is the most dangerous kind, since any amount of disturbance can result in particles floating around in the air and being inhaled. This is not good news. Risks of free-floating asbestos can range from lung scarring to mesothelioma, an insidious and heartbreaking form of cancer. This is the kind in popcorn ceilings.

While non-friable asbestos isn’t a picnic, it’s a lot safer because the asbestos is encapsulated within another material. For example, older homes often have siding made of cement fiber-board tiles. These often contain asbestos, but unless you’re cutting the tiles, it’s safely contained.

There are very specific laws about dealing with both types of asbestos, but those surrounding friable asbestos are as much about protecting humans around the material as the environment. In most areas, homeowners are legally allowed to remove popcorn ceilings from their own homes, but it’s still a really good idea to at least have a test for asbestos before you try it.

Before You Even Think About Scraping That Ceiling

There are few things easier than removing a popcorn ceiling. A scraper and a lot of time will do the job, but the hazard to someone who goes in blindly cannot be understated. So, before you even think about scraping that ceiling, take some samples. Carefully.

Send one to a lab for testing for asbestos. Send another for testing for lead based paint (or use a high-quality at-home test kit). Wait until you have results to move forward.

If you test positive for either or both, consider calling in a pro. They have all the right equipment to ensure that asbestos doesn’t get loose in your home, where you, your family and your pets will be at risk of exposure. If you DIY this one, do not skimp on ventilators and other filters to keep any friable asbestos contained.

Posted in Home Improvement